Friday, July 18, 2008

Tony Curtis: Looking Back

1 comment:

Kirby Sommers said...

Tony Curtis: Lips don’t lie, by Kirby Sommers

Hey, more than anything else, I'm an Upper Westsider. In New York City, this is staking a claim in an area known to be less uptight about anything. So while shopping at the local Barnes & Noble this past Sunday, I discover to my delight that Tony Curtis...yes he's still going to premier his new book at the giant bookstore Tuesday night.

Now, you have to know the reading room at Barnes & Noble at their 66th Street location is small. So, I figure, okay I'll go. I'll sit. I'll listen. And, maybe I'll even meet the legendary actor. After all Elvis Presley dyed his hair jet-black because he wanted to look more like Tony Curtis. Anyone deserving of the King's obsession is okay with me.

"American Prince: A Memoir" has been in the works for two years and is a collaboration with best-selling author Peter Golenbock - one of the better known sports writers. It is debuting on October 14, which I did not know when I trekked over to B&N.

As I walk toward the bookstore, I spot a limousine and a crowd of overly dressed folks piling out of the car. They form a crowd in front of the entrance and among them is an older man sporting a white cowboy hat. I decide to ignore them and push through the revolving doors. Apparently everyone has the same idea so we find ourselves in the small vestibule elbowing our way onto the escalator. It occurs to me this group may just be Curtis's entourage and as I begin to float up I quickly look back. It is.

I realize the old guy being scurried into the elevator who seems to be hiding under an enormous white cowboy hat is Tony Curtis. Everything looks different. His eyes, his face, his body, and hell, even his size. Okay he's put on a little weight, but he's also taller than I would have guessed. The only thing I truly recognize are his lips. Those lips are his, they don't lie.

As I step off the escalator a stern looking woman who looks like a librarian in a bad mood is standing there with arms crossed, pursed lips, and one foot tapping the floor. It is clear to me he's late. Her eyes look past me as she skims the crowd. I want to tell her he's in the elevator, but decide to let someone who is part of his group give her this bit of good news.

I approach the computer department which is just outside the reading room and to my dismay see the entrance has been roped off. At least 5 employees and one burly New York Police Officer named Melendez armed with a really large gun are standing guard.

"Hi, I'm here for the book reading." I am poised, well dressed and anticipate a warm greeting with someone flinging open the red velvet rope allowing me access to my evening.

"Sorry, we're not letting anyone else in. You'll have to go stand on line." A small man wrapped in an ill-fitting burgundy uniform tells me as he points to an invisible line.

"I'll stand, really I just want to go in." I can see the room, plenty of people are seated and having made the trip standing, even in high heels, suddenly doesn't seem like a bad idea.

"No, you'll have to stand on line," he repeats and once again points to a place where I see no line. The others around him begin to glare at me.

With everyone giving me the evil eye, I decide to go find the invisible line. So, I trudge off and start making my way down the main aisle. The tall white cowboy hat is coming towards me and before I know what's happening Tony Curtis grabs my hands (both of them), says hello, and smiles. If only this were 30, 40 years ago when he was beautiful and young and stunning I would have let my hands stay snugly in his. But my reflexes get the better of me and I pull away from the grasp of the old man with the Tony Curtis lips.

My bad. I am now left to my own devices and although I have managed to meet Mr. Curtis I am mortified to see the line does exist. It is behind a wall and wraps around several book aisles. I regret not following him into the room, but vow not to let the B&N gatekeepers from stealing my night. I go back to the front of the velvet rope and once again ask to be let in.

This time I am bold. I tell them to ask Mr. Curtis to let me in. One of them sneers at me and says no. I meet a few people who, like me, had no idea this was going to be a big event. As it turns out some people arrived at 4pm and of those a few got lucky and were in the room.

People begin to complain. "Barnes and Noble should have done a better job, I can't hear a thing," a woman named Carol moans as she tries to focus on the small monitor where it is clear the camara has been carelessly propped because it has an alarmingly good shot of the ceiling. Even the audio is bad. I conclude the only reason Tony Curtis wore a tall white hat is so he could be seen at the bottom of the screen. And, had he known he wasn't going to be heard, he probably would have shown up with a bullhorn.

Other than having actually met the man, the evening was horrible. The staff at B&G were rude -- I mean obnoxiously rude. At one point Melendez, hand poised over that really big gun, came over to me (I found an unobtrusive place where I could at least see the goings on in the room, not really hear them) and threatened to "escort me out." (!!)

"Are you threatening me Melendez, is that what you are doing? I come to a book reading and you are telling me that you're going to escort me out?" He must have realized I wasn't the type to go silently anywhere so he backed off. Only in post 9/11 America can an innocent person go to a public event and suddenly feel like at any point in time a uniformed police officer is going to hurt you. Later that evening, safely tucked behind my heavily locked doors, I realized I had gotten lucky. I could have ended up in jail bruised and battered because I went to a bookstore. Honestly, everyone was nasty. Everyone was offensive; no one at the B&N staff was even remotely polite.

The coolest cat there was the man with the Tony Curtis lips. And I for one am happy to have made his acquaintance, even if I didn't hear one word he said.

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